A short stroll from Central Park, New York's Upper West Side remains one of the city's most iconic neighborhoods, full of the tree-lined townhouses and people-watching that make living here (or visiting) so much fun. It's also a neighborhood that's been loyal to the old guard—and an older style of coffee preparation—for many years. But that's changing, as some of the city's most innovative cafés and roasteries have set up shop.
This tiny café on West 72nd Street is a proud multi-roaster—in fact, they will tell you they were the original New York City café to feature a rotating selection of high-end beans (presumably at their now-defunct East Village location; this one is the second iteration of Box Kite.) And though you never know just what they will be brewing at Box Kite, you can pretty much rest assured it will be high quality and delicious.
This bustling Irving Farm location – located as it is in the ground level of an Upper West Side rowhouse – echos its flagship café on Irving Place, with a long wooden bar from which to order any of the company's numerous single origin roasts and blends, all roasted up in the Hudson Valley by Irving Farm themselves. A full kitchen is in effect here, with an array of hot and cold dishes like sandwiches, egg-y things, and ample salads, along with an overwhelming pastry case spanning the gamut from Colson donuts to improbably low-cal muffins.
For years now, Plowshares Coffee has been quietly roasting fine beans just north of the city in the Ramapo Valley, purveying them to fine food stores and the odd café. Now, the roaster's launched a café as boutique as you'd expect: a dark, handsome sliver of a space on Broadway between 104th and 105th streets, with just enough seating to enjoy a pause and an exceptional coffee. The store is comfortable, but too small – and without WiFi or a bathroom – to really camp out. But the drinks on offer will make it worth the trip.
Despite its tranquil, neighborly surroundings in the residential Upper West Side, this tres-petit Joe location is fairly busy on the regular. Thanks to its small café front, a line can regularly be seen out the door, but don't let that stop you from visiting this consistently excellent NYC staple. Stop by for a brew and a fresh Underwest donut before making your way to Central Park, as this Joe stands a mere blocks away – perfect for something to sip on in between the trees.